The Department of Social Development undertook a Zero Hunger Programme in response to the crisis of poverty-stricken citizens in South Africa. The framework for the Zero Hunger Programme was derived from the Brazilian Zero Hunger model, which had proved to be an effective strategy in addressing and combating hunger. In South Africa, the exceptionally high concentration of chronically poor people was still a major challenge in the rural areas. In spite of poverty alleviation policies and programmes since 1994, there were still high levels of hunger, poverty, reliance on social grants, unemployment and decrease in food production. The most affected areas were the North West, where 33,3 percent of households had inadequate or severely inadequate access to food, followed by the KZN at 26,9 percent. The least affected was Eastern Cape at 20, 3 percent.
The key objectives for this sector were to: ensure food access to the vulnerable sectors of society, improve nutrition security and food production capacity and foster partnerships with all stakeholders within the food supply chain. The summary of progress from the period 2012/13 until March 2013 reflected the work done by the DSD in terms of addressing the problem of hunger and the strategies to combat this distressing social situation. 472 267 households had been profiled nationally, 400 communities had been profiled, 735 households were linked to income-generating opportunities, 183 179 households benefited from the DSD feeding programmes, there were 7 903 beneficiaries of the social relief distress programmes, 14 955 total food parcels had been distributed, 2 178 change agents were supported, and 355 food gardens were established and supported.
The challenges facing the DSD were the limited departmental capacity; limited financial resources; uncoordinated nutrition programmes; and lack of a value chain approach.
The concerns that were raised in terms of this essential initiative were the budget allocation, and whether the budget was realistic and provided for. The alignment of policies on a national, provincial and regional level was also an area for concern, as there was a need for a synergistic approach. The ward rooms required a uniform strategy that reached out and actively engaged with the communities.
The nutrient content of the food parcels were discussed, as the communities receiving these parcels were already suffering from severe malnutrition. The transparency and governance over this initiative in terms of identifying the correct beneficiaries and the handing over of these food parcels were of extreme importance. The entire process from profiling, bulk procurement and distribution required a system that could stamp out any chance of corruption.
The role of change agents was highlighted as of key importance in the successful implementation and efficacy of the Zero Hunger Programme was the role of change agents. The need to engage in the private sector and NGO’s was touched on briefly, but the importance was not underplayed, as they will form part of the stakeholders in this crisis that government needs to address.
The aspect of capacity building was brought into the theme, as social welfare cycles needed to be evolutionary. The government could not provide families with social assistance for ever, but with empowerment and tools to develop self sustainability the once vulnerable could build a new life for themselves. The cycle of supply and demand for food production in the country could stimulate the economy in itself. The major players here would be the Department of Agriculture, which provided the expertise and identified the arable land, whereas the Department of Health focused on the quality of the nutrition.
Members asked about budget allocation and expenditure, support for local products, bulk procurement and the evaluation and monitoring of the food parcels. They also enquired about food labeling, Food Banks, the role of the public sector and Non-Governmental Organisations and whether farm workers were assisted.
Briefing by Department of Social Development (DSD) on Zero Hunger Programme
Mr Peter Netshipale, Acting Deputy Director-General Integrated Development, DSD, briefed the Committee on the Zero Hunger Programme.
The presentation addressed the progress made in the Department’s implementation of the Zero Hunger Campaign and strategy to eliminate hunger. The outline of the presentation addressed the Food Security Challenges in South Africa and the extent thereof. It defined the Zero Hunger Programme’s Goal, its objectives, target groups, progress, challenges and future plans. The mandate for this programme was derived from the various policies and documents that include the South African Constitution, the Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS) and the National Development Plan: Vision 2030.
In 2002, the IFSS was approved for implementation in South Africa. Food Security as part of Section 27 of the Constitution stipulates that every citizen has the right to have access to sufficient food and water, and that the state must by legislation and other measures, within its available resources, ensure the progressive realization of the right to sufficient food.
The framework for the Zero Hunger Programme was derived from the Brazilian Zero Hunger model, which had proved to be an effective strategy in addressing and combating hunger.
Food security challenges had remained, despite the political and economic advances made since 1994. South Africa continued to experience major challenges as a result of high unemployment, steep food and fuel price increases, energy tariffs and interest rates. The rural areas were where the majority of the poverty-stricken people lived. The exceptionally high concentration of chronically poor people was still a major challenge in the rural areas, despite South Africa’s good social protection system. In spite of poverty alleviation policies and programmes, there were still high levels of hunger, poverty, reliance on social grants, unemployment and decrease in food production.
In terms of statistics of the food security challenges, the areas that were the worst stricken were the North West, where 33,3 percent of households had inadequate or severely inadequate access to food, followed by the KZN at 26,9 percent, the Northen Cape at 26 percent , Free State 23,6 percent, Limopo at 20,6 percent and Eastern Cape at 20,3 percent.
The key objectives for this sector were to: ensure food access to the vulnerable sectors of society, improve nutrition security and food production capacity and foster partnerships with all stakeholders within the food supply chain.
The target groups were defined as follows: children from age groups birth to primary school level from poor households; children that had been placed in drop centres or were orphaned; child-headed households; women who were in a risky pregnancy and lactating mothers; people suffering from chronic diseases; elderly people that were at risk; people with disabilities; female headed households; and HIV/AIDS-infected households.
The summary of progress from the period 2012/13 until March 2013 reflected the work done by the DSD in terms of addressing the problem of hunger and the strategies to combat this distressing social situation. 472 267 households had been profiled nationally, 400 communities had been profiled, 735 households were linked to income-generating opportunities, 183 179 households benefited from the DSD feeding programmes, there were 7 903 beneficiaries of the social relief distress programmes, 14 955 total food parcels had been distributed, 2 178 change agents were supported, and 355 food gardens were established and supported.
The presentation provided further statistics of the breakdown on a provincial level based on the above statistics.
There were three hubs of the Food Bank Networks programme: Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. A total of five satellite branches were based in Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg and Tshwane. In terms of the statistics of the food banks that delivered procured and donated food, a total of 2 983 037.16 kgs of food, with a number of meals totaling 9 844 022, number of beneficiaries 377 658 and a total cost per meal of R1.67.
The challenges facing the DSD were the limited departmental capacity; limited financial resources; uncoordinated nutrition programmes; and lack of a value chain approach.
The future plans of the DSD in terms of ensuring that their goals were met and that the citizens of South Africa were treated in accordance with the constitution meant that their needed to be proper household food and nutrition security coordination. There had to be capacity building, and greater access to DSD food security programmes. The rollout of the community nutrition and development centres needed to be established in all the provinces, and finally the Food Banks Network development support needed to be in place.
Mr M Waters (DA) questioned the budget allocation and expenditure. He made reference to slide 13 of the presentation that indicated a statistic of 5 751 480 children that were vulnerable to hunger in South Africa in the various provinces. He drew attention to the figures of the North West province (559 328), where the project of the Zero Hunger Programme was launched, and said that the figures were very low for a province well-known for its poverty stricken areas.
He also stated that the farm workers in all the provinces should be identified and their situation be evaluated.
Ms P Tshwete (ANC) discussed the importance of change agents in the role of implementing the programme effectively in all the provinces and queried the absence in some of the provinces of these important role players. She mentioned that part of the co-ordination process was not possible without the presence of change agents. She also drew attention to the Western Cape as lacking in change agents and the need for farmer workers to be identified for this essential programme.
She also questioned the task teams and security forces involved in this process.
Ms J Ngubeni-Maluleka (ANC) raised the issue of the evaluation and monitoring of the food parcels to ensure that they were placed in the hands of the correct beneficiaries. She sought assurance that food parcels were also given to households where there was no able-bodied person to collect from the collection point, and that these people did not fall through the system due to their disability.
Mr R Bhoola (MF) referred to the slogan that you can give a person a fish and feed him for a day, but if you taught him how to fish then you would feed him for a lifetime. He stated that the lack of nutrition in South Africa alluded to politics. The President, in his State of the Nation Address, failed to deal with the problems that were currently being experienced with policies surrounding hunger and poverty in South Africa. Could the Committee be happy with the results achieved thus far?
He also mentioned that local municipalities distributing of seeds was an overwhelming process, but all the policies needed to be evaluated and aligned with one another. The alignment of ward rooms was also an area of concern. There was a dire need for synergy and alignment in all these areas.
He mentioned the need to visit the respective Food Banks. He cited the Food Bank in KZN as doing a great job, yet the officials seemed to think that there was a duplication of policies in terms of the food parcels.
Ms E More (DA) referred to slide four of the presentation, and the objective of the DSD in the Zero Hunger Programme. She asked how the DSD aimed to ensure that communities were serviced with clean water. Food and water went hand in hand. The provision of food parcels was all good and well but the access and provision to clean water was equally as important. She also said there was a need for the DSD to work on the area of capacitating, allowing for people to empower themselves.
She also raised the question of food labeling. One could always provide food parcels but the nutritional value of the contents was a concern, as malnutrition was already a prevailing factor amongst these children.
Bulk procurement needed to be analysed. Ms More mentioned that this system opened up doors to corruption. She asked the DSD to elaborate on the framework for bulk procurement and whether the DSD had the capacity to handle this.
The Chairperson addressed the DSD on the continued roll out strategy programme for the remainder of the financial year.
She raised the subject of the public sector and NGO involvement linked to the Food Banks. The topic of the product mix in the parcel was raised. Did the DSD support local products or was there no discrimination?
Clarification was required on the average person per household, and the exact impact the social distress programme had on the communities.
Mr Coceko Pakade, Acting Director-General, DSD, addressed some of the concerns the MP’s had in terms of the efficacy and long-term goals of the Zero Hunger Programme. The alignment in terms of the President’s State of the Nation address highlighted the gaps in policy and implementation. All departments were working together to ensure that the all the challenges were addressed. This was a work in progress but this programme was by no means in its infancy stages.
The new strategy was a direct response to the current crisis. He said that the Western Cape pilot programme of food security would be launched and if successful the DSD could plan a rollout programme by engaging with National Treasury to expand its budget in an effort to accommodate the crisis.
He also went on to address the food labeling issue – the Department of Health was actively involved with the evaluation of children’s needs and the nutritional support of the food parcels. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) was also actively involved as a statutory body.
Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), explained the basis of the baseline budget of R165 million to meet the basic needs of nutritionally compromised children. A list of food supplies contained in the food parcel was predetermined. Supporting local enterprises and co-operatives formed part of the initiative to stimulate the economy and it was mostly owned by women. Emphasis would be placed on the solidarity of all stakeholders, especially the Department of Health.
In terms of the average number of persons per household, the number ranged between six and twelve members. The reason for this was that the high rate of unemployment forced the unemployed to gravitate to the households where there was a supply of food. The role of change agents was important and the profiling of an area and a community-based approach and mobilization was needed in order for this to be effective.
Regarding farm workers in the Western Cape, the Department was addressing the current problems, despite the challenges in the area. The rural areas were being targeted so that there was a single view on the way forward to tackle this challenge.
The ward rooms required an integrated approach with everyone participating in the process of food production.
The challenge of too few dedicated staff was being addressed. Distribution was monitored and it was ensured that the food parcels were received by the correct beneficiaries. The good thing was that they were not just given the food, but also educated on the correct usage of the food. In this manner the Department hoped to avoid people selling the food. The task team was made up of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and the Department of Rural Developments. There were national, provincial, and regional task teams in place.
The Food Bank used NPO’s in its food distribution strategy. The aim was to improve their visibility. Each province would set aside a budget for ensuring food security. There were exciting developments planned for 2014 that would be running through the different wards to ensure accessibility. With regard to the change agents, there were community-based workers that ensured that the food parcels reached those people who did not have able-bodied people to receive it.
In terms of the access to clean water for communities, the partnerships formed between the Department of Education, Department of Water Affairs and Department of Human Rights had community-based programmes such as Adopt a River, where a river ran through communities to keep it clean and ensure that it was fit for potable use. There were still challenged in other communities that did not have this infrastructure.
Ms Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development, mentioned that today was International Day of Social Workers, and that the UN had come up with a programme which would run until 2016. The key elements of the programme that the UN planned to address were: fighting poverty, the enforcement of human rights, environmental sustainability and the fostering of good human relations.
In terms of the Zero Hunger Programme, the Minister claimed that this programme had suffered too many delays. The model that was used in Brazil was very sophisticated and worked extremely well, while on the other hand the system used in India was not effective at all due to its simplicity. The Constitution stipulated that people had the right to food. People needed to start working in their capacity so that this could be realised.
The Department of Health had identified impoverished areas, and they used this as a barometer of where to start with the programmes. The project of filling up bags with detergents should be downscaled as food took a bigger priority. She also raised the issue of large multinationals and their role in the Food Bank participation. The needs of the people were not homogenous, and there was a process of intervention. First the welfare services were notified of families in distress, followed by counseling, and thereafter social assistance.
The Minister said that social assistance could not be a process that went on forever. The provision of skills training should be addressed to provide for an integrated approach to self-sustainability. This was a challange, but it would be the most effective approach.
In October 2013, the DSD would submit a report to the Portfolio Committee, so that all parties could get a better understanding of the work that the DSD did.
The meeting was adjourned.
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